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When Geeks Meet, Are They More Likely To Have Autistic Kids? 327

An anonymous reader writes "Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen thinks scientists and engineers could be more likely to have a child with autism, an idea that is fairly common currency in Silicon Valley. But many researchers say the proof isn't there yet. From the article: 'Baron-Cohen proposes that systemizing ability can be inherited — and that in information-technology (IT) enclaves such as Silicon Valley, where hypersystemizers are more likely to meet, pair off and have children, the result is a higher incidence of autism. Back in 1997, for example, he concluded that fathers of children with autism were more than twice as likely to be engineers as were fathers of non-autistic children. But autism researchers ... found that fathers of children with autism were more likely to work in medicine, science and accountancy, as well as engineering, and less likely to have manual occupations. They suggested that these fathers were simply more likely to have reached a higher level of education. Baron-Cohen says that when he reanalysed the data and controlled for education level, he found that fathers of children with autism were still more likely to be engineers, although the difference was smaller.'"
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When Geeks Meet, Are They More Likely To Have Autistic Kids?

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  • Re:Or perhaps... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rhakka ( 224319 ) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:54AM (#37933860)

    or it's environmental, and things that more affluent professionals are exposed to in their work or choose for their lifestyle is to blame. Lack of Vitamin D from working indoors. toxic components in electronics. whatever... the indoor built environment most engineers/medical personnel or the like is used to is simply FULL of new, offgassing, toxic components on a fairly regular basis.... especially if they like buying new stuff at home too. New Car smell? New couch, desk chair, pressboard desk, carpeting? There are neurotoxins in those chemicals...

    My money is on "environmental/lifestyle choice".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:36AM (#37934494)

    Agreed, and the reason why we have supposed "higher rate of autism" as engineers is that engineers usually realize they have no business trying to sort out emotional problems, they seek out professionals "who know better" by taking the misbehaving child to a psycologist, and the psych says "why yes, your child misbehaves, here are some drugs" and we dope the kid up.

    The non engineering parents with the lower rates of autism usually don't bother with taking the child to the doctor because they don't see a need for it, they realize that kids will be kids and they use a modicum of discipline to address the behavior issue.

    Most of today's autism issues are a simple case of "yeah, you're a child, you're not an adult and not capable of making adult decisions yet, so you still need to do what I say until you're legally an adult, then you can go and screw up your life as you see fit". Most parents today, especially those in a "professional" capacity, will rarely discpline their kids or even act like parents at all, most cases of autism I have dealt with are merely children acting out because the boundaries are not clearly defined by their parents and the parents not having any fucking clue what to do with the kids.

  • Re:Or perhaps... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03, 2011 @11:21AM (#37935176)

    AC because I don't remember my login credentials and lost the associated email address years ago. If someone can mod this up to at least 1 or 2 so people can see it, I'd appreciate it.

    I am an engineer, my wife is an astronomer. We have an ASD child. Around 18 months we definitely noticed odd behaviors, all red flags. She wouldn't respond to her name. She'd line up objects of the same color. She'd stack identical objects precisely, not the typical stacking you see from toddlers. She'd walk on the balls of her feet. Her speech was delayed. She wouldn't make eye contact. She'd arch her back away from hugs or other physical contact.

    The initial diagnosis was PDD-NOS, pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified. Our daughter's behavior didn't map precisely to an autism diagnosis, but she was on the spectrum. I will readily admit that I did not want that diagnosis. I wanted someone to tell me that my daughter was just a late bloomer, that the language delay was because we are a bilingual household, that all of the autistic behaviors weren't really autistic. It threw us into a very unfamiliar world of speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, insurance coverage, insurance denials, out of pocket expenses, sensory integration equipment, weighted vests, sleep disruptions ... the list goes on.

    It's not easy. Sometimes I feel sympathy for the parents of neurologically atypical kids when they say "sometimes I wish my child just had cancer" because that's something that can hopefully be treated, hopefully be cured, as opposed to having to wrap your brain around the fact that your child is autistic, and you just. don't. know. if she'll ever be able to live independently, if she'll be able to be a productive member of society, if she'll be able to tell you that she loves you.

    I didn't seek out the diagnosis. I didn't want her to get one at first, but it's true that having one has made it easier to open doors to certain treatment options. It's also closed other doors to certain treatment options -- "Oh, we only cover 20 occupational therapy visits per year, but none for developmental disabilities, and we consider spectrum disorders developmental issues, so ... yeah, sucks to be you!"

    It's been over a year since that dx, and since then, thanks to aggressive early intervention we're seeing improvements. My wife has put her career on hold to devote herself full-time to this -- the window of opportunity is closing, and we're fortunate that this was caught early on, so we need to make the most of these early years -- and spends her days dealing with children's hospitals, therapists, early education from the school district, sleep specialists, insurance companies who give you a different answer every time you call. The last time we saw the developmental pediatrics specialist, he changed the diagnosis to high functioning autism. We're making progress but it'll be with us forever.

    Still, when I can get a "papa, up" from her as I lift her into her bed, I tell myself that hopefully it'll be ok.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun